After a quiet couple days to start the NHL trade deadline week, the big bang happened on Sunday with the trade of Eric Staal to the New York Rangers and Kris Versteeg to the Los Angeles Kings.
Impending unrestricted free agents still on Canes roster
Those trades eliminate the 2 greatest impending UFA/rental assets on the Canes books right now, but the team does still have Cam Ward, John-Michael Liles, Riley Nash, Nathan Gerbe and Brad Malone. A Cam Ward trade the day after the Eric Staal trade would be a magnanimous move to the next generation, but per my recent post, I put the odds of a Cam Ward trade as low. Nash and Gerbe could have small value (think fifth round pick) to a team looking to add fourth-line forward depth.
John-Michael Liles key role in the future
John-Michael Liles should garner calls from teams looking for veteran blue line help in the wake of his strong 2015-16 season so far. He is the player whose situation I am most curious to see how Francis handles it. He sits right in the middle of the blue line picture that is still without Justin Faulk. After significant progress by 3 key young players so far this season, it would be a shame to have the wheels come off in the last 5 weeks of the season without enough veterans to support the stretch run when they also might be hitting a wall physically.
Might Francis now have time to become a buyer for 2016-17 and beyond?
With the volume and importance of phone calls that Ron Francis needs to make/take tomorrow to make sure he gets the most for high value players, might Ron Francis start his work early on building the 2016-17 team? Deals for non-rental players are much more prominent in the summer especially at the draft, but I have a sneaky suspicion that Francis will at least try to do some shopping tomorrow. There are some intriguing but risky names floating around out there.
The Russian sniper who was drafted #1 overall in 2012 has become an on again/off again player in terms of being mentioned as trade bait as Edmonton tries to build a more competitive hockey team. How desperate is Edmonton to just move on? Does Ron Francis and his scouting team like him more than Edmonton does (which does not seem to be much right now)? Would they trade a higher-end D prospect like Fleury to get a forward?
24-year old Brandon Pirri is like Jeff Skinner light. He is a gifted offensive player but has yet to put it all together on an extended basis at the NHL level. He busted out with 22 goals in only 49 games last season. What was almost as noticeable as the goal total was that he somehow managed only 2 assists. This season, he playing to a more modest pace of about 20 goals and 40-45 points if projected over 82 games. With Florida deep with good young forwards in the top half of the roster and moving Saturday to add veteran depth, Pirri is rumored to be a available. As a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer coming off a $925,000 salary and decent but not tremendous 2015-16 season, he is interesting. I saw somewhere that the offers for him were expected to be a second round pick or multiple lower picks. I would consider spending the Rangers 2017 second-rounder to add another skilled finisher to a lineup that is light on those right now.
It makes no sense since the Bolts and Drouin are at an impasse, but it seems like somehow Steve Yzerman is going to conjure up a bidding war for Drouin. If so, I pass. But if the price becomes reasonable, which is more likely to happen much farther down the road if Yzerman cannot work his magic, I would consider him for the right price.
Of the 3, I like Pirri the most largely because the ratio of asking price to offensive skill is the most reasonable. Drouin and Yakupov were selected in elite draft positions, but in a sport where youth rules, I do not value these players as elite once they give the NHL level a go and do not look so elite. Sure some players take time to develop, but some are just duds too and paying full price for the best case scenario overpays on average.
These are just a couple of the names that are floating around a bunch right now, but I would not put it past Ron Francis to pull off a player for player trade on Monday if the opportunity presents itself to add a player for 2016-17 and beyond at forward.